Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales announced Thursday that a grand jury declined to indict San Antonio police officer Stephen Ramos, who shot and killed 13-year-old Andre “AJ” Hernandez last year. There will be no criminal charges filed against Ramos, who was hired by the San Antonio Police Department in 2019 and remains on the force.
According to Iris Dimmick,
Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales announced Thursday that a grand jury declined to indict San Antonio police officer Stephen Ramos, who shot and killed 13-year-old Andre “AJ” Hernandez last year.
There will be no criminal charges filed against Ramos, who was hired by the San Antonio Police Department in 2019 and remains on the force despite having been involved in two fatal shootings.
According to an SAPD account of the incident, officers were responding to reports of gunfire in Southeast San Antonio on June 3, 2022, when they “located and attempted to stop a suspect vehicle, which was later discovered to have been reported stolen.” Hernandez was driving the car, which “accelerated towards a marked SAPD patrol vehicle, crashing into the officer’s patrol vehicle.”
A second officer, Ramos, “fearing that the other officer would be struck” by the car, fired into the car and hit the boy, according to police. Hernandez later died in a hospital. A 16-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy who were also in the car were reportedly uninjured.
Gonzales said in a statement that his office trusts the grand jury’s determination, which was informed by an analysis performed by his office’s Civil Rights Division.
“Our system of justice is based on citizen input, yet nothing can repair the pain and loss that AJ Hernandez’s family has endured,” Gonzales said. “A young boy was tragically lost on that day and we know that no mother should ever have to bury their child.”
Officials said at the time that state law prohibited SAPD from publicly releasing videos and reports on the shooting because Hernandez was a minor. But an analysis of the incident by the Civil Rights Division released Friday includes 911 call audio clips, photos and body and dash camera footage from the incident that show the moments leading up to the shooting with most faces of the minors blurred out.
Hernandez’s family sought a murder charge against Ramos. Attorney Lee Merritt, who represents Hernandez’s family and other families of people killed by police, said last year he would pursue a civil suit against the officer and the City of San Antonio.
In an email Friday, Merritt said the family is “devastated” by the grand jury’s decision not to indict Ramos and will move forward with a federal civil rights lawsuit.
“The Bexar County Prosecutor’s Office has done far too little to ensure accountability for brutal police officers,” he stated. “The use of deadly force on the unarmed minor did not only violate departmental policy and best practices in policing across the country, but it broke the law. Bexar County prosecutors have repeatedly sent the message to police officers in San Antonio that they are above the law.”
Merritt said he also has formally petitioned the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute Ramos.
During a virtual press conference last year, Merritt took issue with the official account of the killing after he and the family viewed the body camera footage.
“The so-called collision was more of a bump and resulted in absolutely no damage to either vehicle,” Merritt said. “This was not a deadly threat. It was a little boy behind the wheel of a car who was surprised that there was not one officer behind him but two officers. … The threat was over before a single shot was fired.”
In March 2021, Ramos shot and killed resident John Pena Montez, whom police said threatened his estranged wife with a knife. An internal police investigation cleared Ramos of any wrongdoing. The grand jury in that case also declined to indict after it reviewed the Civil Rights Division’s analysis of the incident.